Top 10 international challenges to avoid when considering corporate gifts

Mastering the art of corporate gifting can be a challenge. Many business people can’t understand the purpose of such gift; on the other hand, we have those that don’t understand the notion of a corporate gift. It is important to make a good impression; for that to happen you must learn to avoid these 10 international challenges when considering corporate gifts.

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1. Exaggerated gift ideas

Sure, you want to impress a client or a potential investor, but that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard when it comes to the perfect gift. When you’re dealing with foreigners you have to remember that they have different cultural backgrounds; a wine basket might be suitable in France however it won’t impress business people from Arab countries where alcohol is prohibited.

2. Trivial gifts

Hats, pens with logos, and mugs are overrated corporate gifts. They don’t create an impact, on the contrary; they make receivers feel pressured to accept a new client or brand. When dealing with international partners you can’t afford to mess it up. Ditch trivial gifts for something more original.

3. Avoiding to send the gift in person

When you’re trying to build a business partnership you can’t send someone to offer a gift for you. You are not advised to use the postal service either. Make a memorable impression and offer the gift in person; even if you’re from New York and you have to travel all the way to India to do that. The gesture alone will definitely leave a good impression on the receiver.

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4. Mass-produced over personalized

It’s easy to send business partners corporate gifts that are mass-produced. However, they’re not original and the receiver won’t be impressed. A customized gift on the other hand, will instantly grab attention.

Twelve year-old whiskey for example, is good quality whiskey. This could be an excellent corporate gift for a customer/client/investor from Ireland for example; pair it with something traditional from your own country (let’s say Greece) and the impact created will be greater than a basket filled with mugs, hats and notepads.

5. Forgettable gifts

In the business environment most gifts people get are forgettable. When you’re dealing with people overseas, you cannot let that happen. Building partnerships and persuading people to have a closer look at your new start-up is hard; you won’t be able to wow investors unless you spend a little more time on selecting an original gift.

6. Cheap gifts

This is the worst mistake people make. You cannot offer a potential investor a corporate gift that looks cheap and tacky, and then expect for them to contact you or have an interest in your business. You don’t have to spend $1,000 on a present either, (expensive gifts can be tacky too), but it is important to abide by the rules. Keep it simple, classy and elegant!

7. Cars & watches over fruit baskets & sweets

Not all CEOs are impressed by expensive corporate gifts. Cars and watches in particular are too much; they may be seen as bribe, and therefore the receiver might reject them.

A good idea is to blend affordability and convenience with luxury. A beautifully arranged basket with local sweets and seasonal fruits from a certain country, can grab a lot more attention than the keys to an expensive car.

8. Not abiding by the rules

There’s a code of ethics in the business world and everyone should abide by it. Certain rules can’t be broken, and we’re particularly talking about gifts that shouldn’t be offered to employees and colleagues. Avoid expensive jewelry or items with no real purpose, such as t-shirts and hats for everyone, with no regards to size or gender. Certain corporate gifts are not appropriate because they will make receivers feel uncomfortable, not to mention that you have the highest chances of ruining the reputation of your company too.

9. Not paying attention to cultural background

International corporate gift giving and local corporate giving are two very different things. As opposite to people from Arab countries, people from European countries are more rakish.

Alcohol is well-received in Europe but not suitable as corporate gift in the Emirates. People from the Middle East are extremely religious. A good gift can be an elegant compass; this will enable Muslims to know where Mecca is, even when they’re on vacation.

10. Stay away from gifts with an utilitarian purpose

Offering practical gifts to business partners may seem like a good idea, providing that the idea is not too general. Getting too personal is not recommended either; a lot of companies offer gifts for marketing purposes.

But, putting your company logo on every item in a gift basket won’t entice the receiver. They might remember you but won’t have an interest in your business. Think outside the box for a minute and try to build a relationship with the help of a culturally-enhanced gift.

By Charles Goodwin and!


About Aleksej Heinze

Passport to Trade 2.0 project leader. My research interests are in the area of disruptive innovation using information technology (IT) and the use of IT in business management. Topics include: enterprise 2.0; web 2.0, international business culture, search engine optimisation, and social media marketing.